LME030 – New as a manager – 5 important tips

You just got promoted? You are new in your manager role? Congratulations!
Especially at the beginning in your new position, you surely don’t want to make any unnecessary mistakes, right? You want to become a good manager.

New as a manager

Yesterday an administrative worker and today you are a team leader or a group leader. That’s great.

But now you think: what do you have to do to be accepted and respected in your new role by your team members as well as by your boss right from the start?

What‘s important especially during the first weeks? What makes the difference? What do you need to keep in mind?

5 most important tips when becoming manager

Here are my five tips for you as a newly appointed manager.

1. Know your bosses expectations!

How good you are in your job, and whether or not you perform well, that’s something not you or your team members assess, but only your boss.

Therefore, make sure to understand what is expected of you in your new role. Only if you truly know the expectations, you will be able to adopt and live up to them.

For that reason, ask your manager to meet with you. Ask him what his goals are, what is important to him, and how can you help him. What does your boss think what your priorities should be in the coming weeks? What should you keep in mind while working together and what kind of communication does he want?

Get to know your boss, how he thinks, how he works. Which decisions can you make on your own and on which ones does he want to be involved?

„My new team manager is driving me crazy. He sends me a copy of almost all his emails, as my inbox isn’t overflowing already. What a hell do I need all this information for?!“

How exactly wants your boss to be kept in the loop? Does he just want a short email once a week or does he want to be informed about everyone and everything at all times and expects a detailed report every other day – perhaps even including a 5-pages Excel-Sheet every day? Try to find out!

And, to make it clear again: it‘s not you who decide whether you’re doing a good job or not – it’s your boss. And his assessment is based on whether or not you meet his expectations. Sorry, but that’s how it works!

2. Don’t rely only on facts, data and figures!

Take your time for a conversation with your employee and colleague. If you are a manager it is not just about asking for reports, numbers, dates and facts.

It’s about people: About understanding the people that work in your organisation. What drives them? Why are they doing what they do? Listen to their earlier successes and difficulties. Keep asking, so you can truly understand, and – most importantly – don’t judge or evaluate; at least not during the first days.

During the first weeks you try to get a glimpse. Get a picture of how the organisation ticks and how it functions. When are the decisions made? How, by whom and why? Try to get a feel for it.

How people and departments or teams really work is nothing you can see in spreadsheets and organisation charts, but you rather need to know or get a feeling for unwritten rules and hidden agendas. Only then, you can avoid dropping a brick accidentally.

3. Avoid actionism!

The first 4 to 6 weeks as a new leader are your orientation phase. What matters during this time is for you to understand your environment, your team members and colleagues and to find your role.

At this point you shouldn’t make any changes – even if your employees would like you to change things up. Why? Because in the beginning you are not familiar with hidden and unwritten rules and customs in the organisation. You can’t see the full extend of the existing power relations yet. But you need this information to make a good assessment.

Some rules and principles that may seem pointless to you in the beginning might start to make sense once you understand how and why they actually came into place. Try first to comprehend and understand.

Only make far-reaching decisions if you can really assess what impact they will have.

4. Don’t speak badly about your predecessor!

„Well, ladies and gentlemen, as you know: from today on I’m the new head of department here and I had a good look at everything. And, to be honest, I’m not surprised that we are not leading the market. There is a lot that needs to be changed. The way that you as a team performed in the past years was – to put it mildly – not ideal. Your work leaves a lot to be desired. There’s much room for improvement.“

Don’t do that!

Be appreciative towards the organisations past and towards the employees, team members and colleagues and their earlier successes. Even if it wasn’t all that good and even if you already know that some things need to change. Hold back on your assessment.

„What my predecessor has left me with here is nothing short of an absolute mess. It seems like, apart from going on business trips he hasn’t done much at all.“

And, did I mention: don‘t speak ill about your predecessor – not in your introductory speech, and not later. Never!

5. Don’t aim to be popular!

As a leader you are not longer just one of many in the team. As the the team leader you are the boss, not a buddy from work anymore. You have to re-consider your previous communication and behaviour. Most likely you need to make adjustments in one domain or another to adapt to your new role.

The real issues that a leader or manager has to deal with are almost never specialist or technical subjects but it‘s the interpersonal relationships.

As a leader you need to find the right balance between closeness and distance to your employees.

Of course, it is a great feeling to know that you are liked by your team members, but it‘s not the goal of successful leadership to be popular. What is paramount is that you are respected – and not because of your position, but because of your behaviour.

Being a leader is about establishing trust. You don’t need to be or try to become best friends with your employee.

Your goal should be to become trustworthy and to be fair and honest in everything you do.

 

Listen to the podcast version

 

The inspiring quote

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

John F. Kennedy

My first short film: “Klaus Buhmann in job interviews”

It was the first time for me to work on such a film project with professional actors and a great director.

I really enjoyed the shoot and I learned a lot. Many thanks to Melissa Lambert Max Halim, Normen Nowotko and Marc David.

Klaus Buhmann in Job Interviews

The 10 min film is in German but has English subtitles:

What is this film about?

Klaus Buhmann is choleric and slightly narcissistic but he is convinced that he is a good leader.

As division and branch manager of the pump manufacturer Fluidtronic AG he is looking for a new employee to fill the position of a product manager.

The head office has put a human resources manager, Ms Zielinski, at his side for the job interviews …

LME029 – How to set goals with your employees

goal setting with employeesGoal setting with employees is not easy. How can you be successful with it? On what exactly do you have to pay attention to?

It is not easy to agree on goals with employees in such a way that they are actually implemented and achieved. During my time as managing director, I also had to learn that the hard way.

Listen to the podcast version

How most companies set goals with employees

Top-Management develops a strategy based on the company’s vision. Then goals are derived from the strategy: strategic, tactical and operational goals.

These goals are then broken down into divisions and departments. Then the managers of these divisions and departmens set these goals for their employees or – which is much better – agree on goals with their employees.

The idea behind

Goals help the company to ensure that everyone – the employees as well as the bosses – go in the same direction.

So talking about goals helps to clarify on where to go. However, they must be the right goals and it is also important how everyone deals with the goals.

Why?

Before defining goals, we need to know “why”. Therefore: It all starts with the corporate vision and corporate strategy.

If the “why” is not clear, if the corporate strategy is missing, then the goal is nothing you can grasp.

“Our goal for next year is to increase sales by 30%.”

“OK and why? Why is it 30%? “

“What do you mean “why”?  Because I say so! “

Why should sales be increased by 30%? Or: Why should a new product be developed? The boss should be able to answer these questions before breaking down goals.

Goals bring focus, but…

Goals bring focus, but they must not restrict the big picture and flexibility too much. This is of course a balancing act.

I believe that if the achievement of a major goal is far ahead in the future, the goal should be formulated vaguely.

“John, how much money can we make with our biggest customer, Siemens AG in 5 years and especially with which product groups?”

“Uh, I don’t know, boss!”

“But I need the numbers. How else am I supposed to draw up a solid plan and budget for the next 5 years?”

Set goals with employees correctly

How detailled should the goal be?

That is nonsense! Why should anyone describe the exact achievement of goals in detail, which will arise sometime in 5 years. Until then, a lot can happen.

However, this does not mean that goals and measures should be formulated vaguely in principle. But on the contrary. The shorter the deadline for a goal, the clearer the goal must be formulated.

I really like the approach used for agile project management. This is characterized by adaptive planning.

So instead of making a comprehensive, detailed plan at the beginning of the project, regular planning meetings take place at short intervals. In this way, you can react flexibly to unforeseen or unpredictable changes.

So we need definitely a big goal, but it is not specified in detail. But the short-term goals and measures for the next 2-4 weeks: They should be clear, described in detail and agreed upon.

Similarly, you can deal with goals in a very volatile environment – even outside of project management.

Example for adaptive planning

You have defined an annual goal, e.g. the sales or net income of the company. Based on this you have roughly defined sub-goals and measures.

Once a month, you can discuss the sub-goals and measures for the next 30 days with your employees. This means: for 29 days, the boss and employees focus on short-term achievement of goals and on the measures to be implemented.

And one day a month, you take the time to talk extensively about setting and agreeing on goals. Have you and your team achieved your short-term goals?

If not – what was the problem? Did new things come up? Do the goals need to be adjusted? This one day is used to stay flexible, adjust the strategy, share a bird´s-eye view and to adjust the planning to achieve your big goal.

A monthly rhythm may not be the right time frame for a large car company, but for a small, medium-sized company for example in mechanical engineering it can make sense.

In this way, you have regular conversations with your employees, you can adjust goals together. You focus on short-term implementations, but you do not neglect new ideas, impressions and necessary goal adjustments.

Unfortunately, only very few companies do this. Many really think that it is enough to formulate the goals once a year and then check what you have achieved at the end of the year. In a volatile environment, this is not the way to go.

My 5 tips for how to set goals with employees

Here are my 5 most important tips for your goal setting with employees.

1. Goals must be agreed upon!

If you as the boss just simply set the goals for your team, is not a good idea. You wouldn’t get any commitment from your employees. Nothing will be gained from this. There will be no motivation to reach the goal.

M;uch better is: If you want to have actively thinking, independent employees, you have to discuss and get your team to agree on goals. You have to ask, discuss and convince, not just set goals.

2. Set verifiable goals

A goal always has a deadline. That’s a must. It is also beneficial if the goal is measurable. Then it’s easy. But often goals are not measurable. Nevertheless, the goal should be formulated in such a way that it is crystal clear for everyone involved whether the goal has been reached by the deadline or not.

3. Goals need space!

Those who lead with goals must not micromanage. Anyone who agrees on a goal with his or her team agrees on who and what and when, but not on how.

Well defined goals describe a desired outcome, but leave open how it can best be achieved. The employee decides which measures must be taken to achieve the goal. It should be their creative freedom.

4. Focus only on a few goals!

There is no point in agreeing on 20 goals with your employee. You get bogged down. Managers and employees should consider a maximum of three goals and agree on them.

5. Document goals and check them regularly!

If you have agreed on goals with your employee, document them and check them along with your employee regularly – for example, once a month or once a week. Goals only make sense if you check their achievement regularly.

How to deal with a demanding boss when goal setting

If you’d like to know how to deal with a demanding boss when agreeing on goals, watch this video or read the following post:
How to deal with a demanding boss

The inspiring quote

“You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.”

Steve Garvey

LME028 – What do you wish you knew, before becoming a successful leader?

A lot of people, who aren’t in an executive position think that if you are promoted  in a company or an organization or if you become your own boss as an entrepreneur, people will just follow you because now you are the leader.

And everything becomes more easy because now you are in charge and people follow you.

Sorry, guys! But this isn’t true. Becoming a leader is mostly totally different to what you might expected.

What do you wish you knew, before becoming a successful leader?

Therefore, I invited 5 leaders with different backgrounds for my podcast show. I wanted to know from them, what they wish they knew, before becoming successful leaders.

What we would have loved to know about Leadership

 

1. Dan Lovaglia

Dan Lovaglia

We start with Dan. He is a ministry consultant and leadership coach in the Chicago area in the US.

I recently heard Patrick Lencioni author of “The Motive”, his most recent book and business leadership consultant say:

“Everyone has influence. And they probably shouldn’t.”

This quote rocked me to the core. The fact is when I stepped into leadership, the one thing that I didn’t know was that it was going to cost me something. I was going to have to pay a price.

In fact, I’ve used this phrase over the years. If I lead, I will pay a price. If I don’t others will.

My name is Dan Lovaglia. I’m a staffing and coaching associate with Slingshot group. We’re a nationwide team that works with ministries and churches across the US to build remarkable teams.

I love being part of an endeavor where we get to walk alongside people, partner with them as they grow in their leadership, grow the ministries and initiatives that they’re wanting to be about because they know that they’re stewards of something important.

And they know that if they don’t stand up, speak up, take steps forward, somebody is going to pay a price. And hopefully as a leader, they recognize – like I’ve come to recognize I’m going to pay a price first.

It’s important for me to step into leadership, knowing that I’m going to have influence, and I want it to be the right kind of influence for the right direction and the right reasons.

I think Dan is spot on. If you lead you will have to pay a price and you need to think about that before you start to become a leader.

If you like to contact Dan, just click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/danlovaglia/

2. Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb helps leaders to avoid disasters. He is a best selling author, a coach, trainer and speaker and lives in the Ohio area in the US.

You should never go with your gut. Does it sound surprising to you that I say that? After all, you get so much advice to go with your gut, follow your intuition, be primal, be savage and so on.

What can Huff calls, whatever? Well, unfortunately, the people who give you such advice are just giving you the modern equivalent of snake oil.

Going with our gut. Intuition is terrible advice. It is pretty horrible because intuitions are not adapted for the modern environment. There are definitely for the ancestral environment.

Think about how we meet friends. Like let’s say how we’re meeting COVID-19. We have a very intense fight or flight response that stems from our environment.

We have to jump at a hundred shadows to get away from that one saber tooth tiger. And now people are responding to the COVID 19 with either a defensive response going out and buying a lot of stuff that they won’t need later, or the flight response, but ignoring it, they’re saying, you know,

Hey, our life is great. Everything is fine. But it can be a problem. We are not responding well at all to the reality that the COVID-19 is a huge, slow moving train wreck.

I really don’t see leaders literally preparing for the reality that we’ll be living with it for at least the next two to three years until we have a vaccine and distributed them widely.

So this is a big problem that leaders aren’t changing their business model and individual professionals aren’t changing their career track to adapt to the reality of COVID-19.

Very true. I believe I would have made less mistakes in my business life if I paid attention to this. Yes, you should never go purely with your gut intuition.

If you like to get in contact with Glen, click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-gleb-tsipursky/

3. Jessica Dreistadt

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Jessica has served as the leader of a family center system in a public school district, a shelter for families experiencing homelessness, a community development corporation, and a women’s leadership network.

My name is Jessica and I’m the facilitator of the women’s creative leadership network.

There are several things I wish someone would have told me on the way to becoming a successful leader.

And I also believe that as a leader, it’s important for us to share this knowledge with the next generation.

The biggest thing I wish that I had known is that there’s no such thing as perfect. There’s not one right way to do things or only one best choice.

Leading is really much more complex than that. When we hold ourselves to impossible standards as leaders, it just sets us up for disappointment and it wastes precious energy that could instead be put into learning.

It’s also demoralizing to the people around us. So in other words, it’s okay to make mistakes, just be open to learning from them.

And if you’re not making mistakes, then you probably aren’t taking enough.

I fully agree with Jessica. As a leader we need to recall again and again that there is no such thing as perfect.

I foyu’d like to get in touch with Jessica, click here:
https://www.facebook.com/jess.dreistadt

4. Ola Yetunde Harris

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Ola is a sales and marketing expert from Johannesbourg in Southafrica.

Hi, my name is Ola Yetunde Harris. I manage several different entrepreneurship groups on Facebook, as well as a sales team.

And the biggest thing I wish I knew before becoming a leader is that you never been to get it all passive. You need to just keep moving, put your best actions in and just strive to get things done rather than get things perfect.

The other thing would be that, as a leader it is you job to always be on the look out for the best people that suit certain tasks, because you cannot win by putting square pegs in a sicko.

Or in other words, you have to look at what people natural talents are and try to fit them into the task that you need to get done.

Those are the two things that I really wish that I knew before becoming a leader and not having to force that.

Thanks Ola for giving us 2 lessons. I believe it is very important to understand that you never get it all perfect. Most important is: You need just to get moving. That’s so true. And yes looking for the right place for the right people to work for you is crucial.

If you like to get in touch with Ola, just click here:
https://www.facebook.com/olayiwola.odemwingee

5. Paul LaRue

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Paul lives in the Colorado are in the US. He is a restaurant operations consultant. He is a leadership & organizational coach and speaker.

Hello, this is Paul LaRue, leadership and business consultant and founder of the UPwards Leader.

Back in my university days, I was part of the student leadership organization.

Our institutions laws had criteria for membership, solid grades, supporting the local community and being active and other student organizations.

After my second year with the group, I noticed the ideas we were founded on are becoming diluted. Sitting members were loosening the selection criteria for new members.

It was becoming more of a social group rather than an institution that stood as the standard for other campus organizations.

One member D wanted to bring his friend Robin in because he thought Robin was cool and D wanted to gain status in our group.

Robin fell short of our member criteria. D was able to get Robin approved.

Soon afterwards Robin ended up violating our bylaws and face expulsion, but D was able to maneuver and maintain Robin’s membership.

I saw this downward trajectory and organization and mentioned it to a fellow member, but we failed to act.

Two years after I graduated, our organizations charter was permanently destroyed. It was then I realized that culture with proper checks and balances is essential for the success of any group or company. Bringing in a board of people do the culture fit, not ego or status is about the purpose of any organization and the glue that holds it together.

When culture is not held as the measure of what an organization is and who his people are, that institution will inevitably fall apart. It was a valuable lesson that has served me well all these years.

Thanks Paul for that important insight. Yes, in any business or organization it is crucial that proper checks and balances exist. The culture fit not ego or status of the people involved holds an organization together.

If you like to get in touch with Paul, click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paullaruejr/

 

Thanks a lot for all participants. I’d like to end this post with an inspiring quote from Jack Welsh:

„Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others“

 

Listen to the podcast

 

LME027 – One-on-one meetings! What matters most!

As a leader you should have one-on-one meetings with your direct reports regularly.

But how do you introduce one on ones to your direct reports? How does such an one-on-one meeting work? How do you get started and what exactly should you say in such meetings?

one-on-one

one-on-one

My experience with one-on-ones

During my time as a manager, I had lots of meetings with my direct reports.

However, from todays point of view, I should have conducted one-on-one meetings more frequently and especially regularly. Over time, I realized how valuable this management tool – the one-on-one meeting – is and how important it is to build trust with your direct reports.

When I talk to executives about these one-on-ones, I often hear:

“I know that I should regularly take the time to talk to each of my direct reports, but I don’t have time for it. There is always so much to do.”

Well, if the one-on-ones are important to you – I mean really important to you – then you should find the time to talk to each of your direct reports at least 20 minutes every week or at least every 14 days.

Of course this is easier said than done, but in the long run these conversations will bring you an incredible return on investment. They save you a lot of time and money.

If you do it right, you will get motivated people who will think along similar lines and pull in the same direction along with you.

These one-on-ones will help you to get to know your employees better and better. But most important: You build trust which makes it easier for you to delegate tasks.

If you have one-on-ones regularly, you will become much better at understanding what is going on with your employees and how you can support them.

 „OK – and what do I have to consider for these one-on-one talks?“

It’s a conversation between two people.

If possible, these conversations should take place in a quiet, relaxed environment. That can, but does not have to be in the office. You can also have such a conversation during a walk together, so to say a meeting “on the go”.

Focus on your direct report.

It is important that you are focused on the matter and only concentrate on your employee. No distraction! Avoid interruption of any kind!

And please remember: In a one-on-one meeting its clear that your smartphone is switched off. I don’t have to point that out, do I?

A one-on-one is an employee meeting!

Why is it called like that? That is because the employee talks more than the boss.

It is mainly the time of the employee spending with his manager, not the other way around.

“Well, but how do I start such a conversation and what should I talk about?”

The one-on-one process

Let´s talk about the rough process of one-on-one meetings first: Each one-on-one is different. They are unique because people are unique.

Nevertheless: Especially if you have just officially started regular one-on-one meetings, it is beneficial to provide a rough framework. For simplicity, we assume 30 minutes. You can then divide these 30 min one-on-ones into three 10 min parts, for example:

Part 1: Employees time only

You start the conversation with a question and then you listen. This is the time when your direct report wants to discuss matters that are important to him or her.

Part 2: Your time

The manager addresses issues such as giving feedback for instance. You can also inform about goals or talk about organizational changes and hear your employee’s opinion on them.

Part 3: It’s about the future.

What is in store for the next few days. Talk about your plans. Ask about his or her plans. If you have agreed on actions to be carried out then you can briefly summarize them at the end of the one-on-one meeting.

It is just a framework…

As I said before, these 3 parts are just a rough framework, a kind of guideline that can be helpful to you especially when you start one-on-one meetings with your direct reports and if you haven’t done it before.

The meetings don’t necessarily have to be 30 minutes. Start with 15 minutes or 20 minutes. The individual parts can also be of different lengths. If the employee has many things to discuss, just talk about them and skip the other parts. That’s ok.

The key is: just start with one-on-ones. And very important: do one-on-ones regularly – and I mean weekly or at least bi weekly.

“I feel stupid about it. I don’t know how to start the conversation …
What should I talk about?”

Good question. I have put together a free checklist for one-on-one meetings with examples and tips how to conduct one-on-one meetings. You’ll find the link to the free download in the YouTube description and in the comments.

If you introduce one-on-ones, you may feel uncomfortable at the beginning. That’s normal. The situation may seem strange to you.

“What does the employee think about me when I suddenly start with such personal meetings?”

Just hang in there. It is worth it.

You can easily start a one-on-one by asking open questions, for example:

 “John, how is it going? How are you doing? “

or

“John, what is your biggest challenge right now?”

or

“Is there anything I can currently support you with?”

If that leads to nothing, you can also ask about current developments in the company, e.g.

“John, what do you think of our recent organizational change? What´s your take on that? “

All the questions are used to break the ice and start a conversation with your employee. Get involved, be interested in her or his opinion and ask.

You can also ask questions like:

Where did you feel friction in the last week? Where there specific meetings or situations where we as a team can improve?

or

You know that we strive in our company for customer satisfaction. But I also know that some of our rules and customer processes are not ideal at all. I ‘m interested in your opinion. Where do we need to improve? What needs to change?

or

What feedback do you have for me? Where can I as a manager improve?
For example: What do you want to do me more and what should I do less?

 

Start with open questions.

But note that it is your job to start with such open questions. After that, you listen actively. You can ask if you don’t understand something but you listen carefully.

If you are introducing one-on-ones, explain to your employees why you are doing this, what the talks will roughly be about and what advantages your employees will gain from it.

The greatest advantage of one-on-ones?

Do you know what most employees consider the greatest advantage of such meetings?

It is the undisturbed, undivided time they can spend with their manager. Your employees know very well that you are always under time pressure. So if you take your time and spend them with them, that shows appreciation.

I, the employee, am important to my boss because otherwise he wouldn’t spend regularly time with me, right?

What to do if I feel uncomfortable…

If thinking about starting one-on-ones still makes you feel uncomfortable, talk about it. It’s not weakness but strengths when you talk about that feeling.

For example, you can say the following:

“John, I’d like to conduct 1 on 1 meetings with each of my direct reports on a regular basis. This is very important to me because I believe that if we spend more time together, we will understand each other better and I can support you much better.

To be honest, starting with these one-on-ones still feels a bit unusual or awkward to me. But I strongly believe it’s important to start with it and it will help us to improve working together.
So: How’s it going with you: Is there something I can currently support you with?”

By conducting one-on-one you offer your employees a forum to exchange ideas with you. Of course, your employees also want to hear your opinion, but it is particularly important that your employees can share their thoughts and issues with you.

One-on-ones are not about you.

Therefore: One-on-one meetings are not about you, they are about your employees. Be sincerely interested in them, in the job they do and in their personality.

I promise that one-on-ones will be a game changer in your leadership. They pay off in the long term for everyone involved.

I have put together a checklist for one-on-one meetings. You can download this check list for free here:

The inspiring quote

“We have this religion that everyone has one on ones on the team. We think everyone should be doing it. It just leads to a happier work place, and it takes almost no investment. It really pays off.“

David Cancel

How to deal with a demanding boss

Do you have a demanding boss? A boss who asks you to meet unrealistic or even impossible to reach goals?
How can you deal with this as a manager yourself being in the sandwich position?

During my time in middle management, I had some tough negotiations about goals with my bosses. Often I didn’t know how to react to these demanding bosses. But over time I learned how to deal with these situations and how to handle unrealistic goals.

How to set goals

Before we talk about these demanding bosses and how to deal with them, let’s have a look on how to agree on goals in general. There is a big difference between setting goals or agreeing on goals. Unfortunately, some managers don’t seem to be very clear about this:

“Come on, John! We´ve talked enough. This is your goal: You have to accept it!”

Uh no. This is not an agreement! That is just setting a goal.

But you should agree on goals rather than set them. Because, you need committed employees who want and are capable to achieve these goals. You´ll gain nothing from just setting a goal and your employees are not committed.

If, you want to have people in your team who think actively and who don’t come to you with problems but with solutions, you have to agree on goals.

You have to ask, you have to discuss and you have to convince your employees about goals. You need to negotiate about the goals with your employees not just set them.

A goal that your employee has set himself or herself, that has a much stronger meaning for him or her.

For the bosses: Listen Carefully

By the way: Listen carefully to the ideas your employees have.

You will probably be amazed at the high goals that motivated employees set themselves. That was often the case when I proceeded that way.

But my own boss is very demanding…

How to deal with a demanding boss

But my boss doesn’t agree on goals. He sets goals and sometimes these goals are very demanding. And now, I have to convince my team to agree on them. How can I do this?

Not an easy situation. If you are convinced that you and your team can reach the goal, then it is important to win over your employees.

If  you are not convinced of the goal your boss set, then you´ll have to tell your boss directly.

Try to speak to him and understand why the goal is so important to him. What is really behind it? If you know this, then you can make a counter-proposal. In this way you have a much better chance to change the goal.

How to deal with unrealistic goals

Sometimes bosses set unrealistic goals  – not out of madness, but because they assess the situation and the resources differently:

“Well,  John: The goal for you and your team is to introduce the new ERP system within the next 6 months. It will be tough, but I’m convinced you can do it. ”

You may reply:

“Sorry boss, but 6 months? That won´t work!”

But that´s not how you should respond. Simply blocking, does not help.

The counter proposal

Instead, make a counter-proposal, for example:

“I understand that we have to introduce the new ERP system as quickly as possible. I also promise you that we will work on it with full commitment. But we can’t do it in 6 months. At least not with the current team. If we can temporarily get 2 external consultants, I think we will make it. But if we don’t get any additional resources, then it will definitely take us at least 10 months. ”

Now your boss can decide whether 10 months are ok or if he changes the budget and adds two external consultants for the project.

 

How to deal with impossible to achieve goals

What can you do if your boss demands impossible things and won´t change his mind about it?

“Come on, John. You and your team have developed this great gas engine with 97% efficiency. It surely will be possible to increase the efficiency a bit.

Take our sales team for instance. They increased sales by 30% last year. It´s not too much to ask if I want 4% more efficiency. 4% come on: 101% efficiency is not a big deal. Just ask the sales department how they do the 30%. – Anyway, the goal is set. Increase by 4%! Go for the 101 % efficiency”

If your boss has unrealistic demands, you can’t just accept them.

You have to act immediately and you have to tell your boss in a friendly but persistent manner that this goal is impossible to achieve. In this example, the goal even contradicts physical laws.

When you cannot accept a goal of a demanding boss…

You can’t just accept impossible goals and pass them on to your team. That will not do it. If you did, your team would no longer accept you.

And your boss will later blame you if you failed to achieve the impossible goal. – And 101% efficiency: this will keep you on your toes, believe me!

“Well, John didn´t really disagree with hs goal. Of course, I assumed that the 4% goal could be achieved. I’m not a technical guy! He is the expert. And now we are in a mess. It is end of the year and we did not reach our goal. That will have  consequences for John!”

So what can you do if your boss has unrealistic demands?

Here are my 3 tips:

1. Clarity

Say it kindly, but immediately, in a straightforward way and without beating around the bush: This task is not feasible. It cannot be achieved.

2. Counter-proposal

Make a counter-suggestion of what a realistic solution could look like and how a realistic goal could be set.

Consequence

If you have said

“No”

to an impossible goal from your point of view, you must remain resolute and consistent.

You can be persuaded to accept a challenging goal, e.g. 30% more sales or something like that. But an impossible goal to achieve, a goal that you have identified and named as such in front of your boss, you can´t reject at first and then at some point later still accept it.

You have to stay consistent and say “No”, even at the risk that your boss will not like it. Yes that might have negative consequences for you, but if you don’t reach the goal, the consequences are worse by far.

Sorry! There is no other way!

How to stay focused at work when everyone wants your attention!

How to stay focused at work

How to stay focused at work!

Today it is difficult to stay focused at work especially as a manager. Everyone wants your attention: clients, colleagues, your employees, your boss!

I mean: The day only has 24 hours, right? What should you do?

How can you stay focused and work on the most important things without distraction?

 

Do you work efficiently?

Do you have enough time to really work on the important things?

” I am the manager here. Everything is important to me!”

OK. How accessible are you for your employees?

“Well, I must be accessible all the time. My door is always open to all my employees.”

Oh, really?

“Well, I’m just a good manager. Always accessible. I mean my people need me to take fast decisions. So I have to be accessible all the time, right?”

Do you think you are doing your employees a favor?

“Yaaa”

Are you sure? Do you really want to be always accessible to your employees – all the time?

Sorry, but that’s nonsense.

Yes, I know you want to demonstrate employee orientation. I understand: after all, It is important these days to be there for your people – to be accessible for them.

That is well-intentioned, but it doesn’t make any sense in this way.

Any boss who is always accessible struggles with constant interruptions. Anyone who is always available by phone, anyone who reads every “DM” message immediately and who is also proud to answer every email immediately, is not working properly.

Well-intentioned doesn´t mean well done.

Anyone who can be interrupted in this way works completely inefficiently.

At the end of the day, a lot seems to have happened, you feel stressed but you haven’t done anything really important.

I mean, you haven’t had the time to focus and to work on something deeply enough. Mostly the crucial, important work has been left behind and is postponed.

The problem: Constant interruptions!

Being constantly accessible means you frequently will be interrupted in your own work.

An employee calls and urgently needs you to make a decision. Others come in your office to ask you something. I mean in the end you have an open door policy, right?

Most of the time, these are only short distractions, but every disturbance interrupts your own work flow. This is exhausting.

When you return to your actual task again, it will take a few minutes until you can fully concentrate again on where you left off.

It just takes time to be fully refocused on the actual task. Working with constant interruptions is extremely inefficient and stressful. In addition, the more mistakes you make, the harder it is for you to focus on your work.

It’s your choice to stay focused at work!

Research has shown that office workers can only work in average for eleven minutes without getting interrupted.

Imagine what it is like for managers who are and want to be accessible all the time.

It is up to you as the boss to decide if you really want this. Most employees don’t have the freedom to decide, but you have. As a manager it is possible to isolate yourself from most interruptions – at least for a certain amount of time every day.

But you need to decide that.

You need to want this. But that means you have to ditch the always open door policy.

It it is sufficient, if you are available and open for conversations – and you are available if an employee can leave you a message at any time, for example by email or with your secretary if you have one.

The one who has reached out to you will get an answer as soon as you are available again – but not immeadately. That is not necessary.

For example, I usually read my e-mails on working days within 24 hours and in important cases also reply within 24 hours. That is a reasonable expectation, which I also generally consider reasonable for most managers.

Email is an asynchronous communication medium.

That means using e-mails allows me to be self-determined. I decide when to read emails and when to reply, not someone else or a beeping system.

Anyone who expects me to respond to emails immediately has a wrong expectation. Sorry. That is their problem, not mine. E-mails are not made for immediate reading and reply.

A phone call is synchronous!

It´s a different situation when it comes to a phone call. I refer to this type of communication as synchronous. Because as soon as someone calls you and you choose to pick up the phone, you have to communicate immediately.

If your conversational partner asks you a question on the phone, you can’t wait and just answer after 8 hours.

Before you pick up the phone, you are self-determined, after picking it up you are not self-determined any longer. Now you are other-directed because you are caught in synchronous communication.

The same also applies to personal discussions.

Of course that is also synchronous. As soon as you allow yourself to be involved in a conversation, your response times are determined by others, just like on the phone.

No of course not. But if you want to be as self-determined as possible – which you should as a manager – try to arrange and schedule phone calls and meetings and not to conduct them offhand.

Now, you may say:

“Yes, that sounds nice, but that doesn’t work for me. My employees need quick decisions from me on a lot of things daily. I have to do that quickly. They can’t wait.”

Stop! Most operational, urgent tasks should be decided by your employees anyway. This means you have to give your employees the freedom to make the decisions they need to make.

Focus on important things!

Take your time and focus on the really important things yourself and delegate the rest. Don’t solve problems that your employees are supposed to solve and don’t decide things that your employees can actually decide.

Focus on few but essential tasks!

And don’t let yourself be constantly distracted.

Ditch the open door policy!

Schedule meetings and calls and don’t screw up your schedule.

The problem quite often is – and I am guilty of this sometimes as well –

Sometimes we love to have an excuse for postponing unpleasant tasks.

Well, and then sometimes there is something else: It is that we love to hear the latest news. We want to be distracted. We are wired like this. It is inherent in all of us.

Somehow it feels nice to be distracted by a new message that pops up on the screen of your SmartPhone. While you are working on an important presentation, a new e-mail notification appears on the computer.

Believe me, important things that are also urgent will not come in an email. If your house is on fire, the fire brigade will for sure not send you an email.

How can you stay focused at work?

Don’t allow systems and others to interrupt you.

1. Turn off all notifications.

No notifications on the phone. Not from Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, no Whats App or LinkedIn or…

2. Switch off your email program

Very important: Always switch off the email program on your computer or laptop. Only open your email program when you want to read and answer your emails – and you shouldn’t do this more than 3-4 times a day.

3. Close the door and forward calls

If you are working on an important matter, do not answer the phone and close your door. Yes, in this times you have to ditch the open door policy – and that is a good thing.

4. Turn off your smart phone during meetings

So important. When you’re in a meeting, turn off the damn smart phone – or best of all, don’t bring it to the meeting in the first place.

5. Always be available, but don´t be accessible all the time.

Of course, as a manager you are there for your employees. Your employees can send you an email at any time. This is how they can reach out to you. However, you are not always accessible. You schedule a meeting or a call, but you are in the drive r seat.

Don’t let anyone screw up your schedule.

 

If you do all these, you are much more self-determined. Doing this will help you to stay focused on the really important things.

How to stay focused and rejecting requests

Do you also have a tough time rigorously rejecting requests? It’s difficult to say “No” to calls for help or opportunities when these are outside of your area of focus. If you’d like to know how to deal with this, check out my post on

How to stay focused on your goals and say “NO” if needed.

 

 

Focus on doing the right things instead of a bunch of things.

Mike Krieger

LME026 – Entrepreneur’s Rocket Fuel – Interview with Mark C. Winters

Marc C. Winters, Co-author of Rocket Fuel

Mark C. Winters, Co-author of Rocket Fuel

Today we talk about why it needs not just one but two entrepreneurs to build a successful business and why it is essential that these two have dramatically different roles.

I will talk about this with Mark C. Winters who is the co-author of the book rocket fuel.

If you are an entrepreneur or you work for a small business, this interview may be an eye opener for you.

Listen to the podcast version

About a year ago a friend of mine told me about a book called “Rocket Fuel”. He said:

“Bernd, you need to read this.”

I was amazed to hear that and wanted to know more about it.

The situation of my entrepreneurial friend

My friend told me that by reading the book he finally understood why he has been frustrated with his company over the last years although from outside he was a successful entrepreneur.

In less than 5 years he has built a company with 30 employees. The company was well positioned in the market and – at least from outside – quite profitable.

Working 24/7

But he was working his butt off. He was working more or less 24/ 7.

Of course he was passionate for his business, but taking care about the day-to-day work, the nitty gritty details that was frustrating for him.

He complained about his employees. They were not working on the right things, they didn’t understand quickly enough what he wanted from them. He had a lot of great new ideas for new products, for new marketing and sales ideas but in the day-to-day business he didn’t find the time to work on them.

His solution: Rocket Fuel

He told me, when he read the book Rocket Fuel he finally understood the reason for his frustration. He understood his role in the company. He told me:

He is the visionary. That’s the leader who should focus on new ideas and on new products, on product improvements and on customers. But this was not what he was doing most of his time. He wanted to spend more time in his role as a visionary.

But to do this, he needed someone who could do all the day-to-day work, who focuses inside the company. A person with this role is a so called integrator.

The two roles in a business

In the book Rocket Fuel the two authors describe these two roles:

“The visionary possesses a pioneering spirit that seizes market opportunities, dreams big, and inspires people behind a common vision. Visionaries notice problems in the word and find ways to solve them. They are a continuous source of new ideas.

The integrator is a realist. Integrators ensure commitments are kept, deadlines are met, and resources are managed. Integrators align resources to make the visionary’s dream a reality.”

The two roles  – the visionary and the integrator role – are vital to building a great company.

The problem of a lot of entrepreneurs

The problem is, that rarely one person can fulfill both roles. Normally an entrepreneur starts a company because he or she is an entrepreneur and a strong visionary.

But mostly after some time one or more of 5 frustrations kick in. Marc C. Winters and Gino Wickman, the authors of Rocket Fuel describe these 5 frustrations of a visionary as follows:

  1. Lack of control

You started the business so you can have more control over your time, money and freedom, but once you reach a certain point of growth, you realize that somehow you actually have less control. The business is now controlling you.

  1. Lack of Profit

No matter how hard you work, the numbers just don’t add up.

  1. People

Nobody seems to understand you or do things your way. You’re just not on the same page.

  1. Hitting the ceiling

Growth had stopped. The business is more complex, and you can’t figure out exactly why it isn’t working.

  1. Nothing is working

You’ve tried several remedies, consulted books and instituted quick fixes. None of these have worked for long.

The solution is: You – as the visionary – need to embrace your visionary nature and you need to get an integrator on board.

“The integrator integrates the major functions of the business, run the organization, and manage the day-to-day issues that arise. The integrator is the glue that holds the people, processes, systems, priorities, and strategy of the company together.”

Rocket Fuel describes the roles of the visionary and the role of the integrator in detail.

It focuses on how to find an integrator and how the visionary and the integrator can successfully work together. As you can surely imagine, it is not easy for a visionary to hand over responsibilities and decisions to the integrator. But this is crucial in order to work successfully together. Only then the integrator can do his job.

Find my interview with one of the authors of Rocket Fuel: Mark C. Winters in this podcast episode:

 

 

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Author unknown – quote from Africa

LME025 – Leading in times of crisis

Today we will talk about how to lead in times of crisis.

How can you control the chaos? How you can stay calm and positive with in the storm and how can you engage the hearts and minds of your people in tough times.

Sounds interesting? – Read on!

Listen to the podcast version


I am writing this in the beginning of April 2020.

It is unclear whether we are in the middle of the crisis or just at the beginning. Our public life is becoming increasingly restricted due to the corona virus. There are shutdowns, lockdowns and we all have to reduce our social contacts to a minimum.

Governments worldwide are trying to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on healthcare systems to slow down the spread and save time. Will it work? I hope so, but nobody really knows.

What does that mean to us?

How can we control the chaos?

Can we control the chaos?

I believe, you can’t control what comes from outside, but you can control how you react.

Let me give you my 3 ideas how we can deal with the chaos.

1. Self awareness

I believe it is most important that you have a clear understanding of your personal strengths and values. It’s important that you have your own compass heading in the right direction.

You need to be clear on: What do you stand for? What motivates you? What is really important to you? If it is money than think twice.

And I also mean if you think money gives you security. Be careful. How much money do you need? 10.000, 100.000, 1 Mio, 10 Mio? What will happen if we suddenly face an hyper inflation? Your money is gone like that. Will money really help? What happens if you become ill and there aren’t any beds in the ICU’s for you?

I personally believe: What really is important: that’s people. Take care about others. Take an active role and help others especially in times of crisis. So, think about what is most important for you and what do you stand for?

2. Have an infinite mindset

My next impuls I got from Simon Sinek

“Have an infinite mindset! You are in for the long term.”

What does it mean?

Times like this are especially tough for people who love clear structures and high planning security. They love to have a detailed plan and a clear goal, for example reaching sales of 1 million Dollars. That’s the opposite: It is a finite mindset.

In times of crisis this thinking doesn’t help. You need to be much more agil and you need to think in the long run. Having an infinite mindest means that you have aclear why. Why you are doing what you are doing. You know what you stand for and you have a vision. A vision is always emotional and it is vague. It is a great picture of a better future. It is not a clear plan.

In times of crisis this helps a lot. In that way your mind can adapt more quickly and is not bound to your detailed plan. You may work with a short term plan and change depending on the situation, but with your vision you have an understanding where you want to go.

3. Think in scenarios and have contingency plans.

We don’t know, what happens in the near future. But we can think about different scenarios.

What we know can do is to prepare for these different scenarios. We have plans for the different scenarios and we assess the regularly short term, which scenario becomes more likely to happen – and based on that we adapt our actions.

In crisis it matters most how you think and feel. Do you believe you are in survival mode? Or are you in a reinvention mode?

You can ask youself:

“How do I get thru this?”

or you ask:

“How do I gone a change to get thru that?” 

A German collegue of mine – Lars Vollmer – was on spot when he said:

“Change is great – but to be changed is terrible!”

So, in times of crisis it is better to have an active role and accept to change, change what we do, change goals – not the long term vision and change business models.

A good example for this is the German entrepreneur Wolfgang Grupp. A few days ago his company Trigema changed a big part of the production from producing shirts to producing respirators. With this change he helps our healthcare system and it helps his company to survive this crisis.

My piano teacher changed his business model from teaching in school rooms to teaching online.

How can you stay calm and positive with in the storm?

Last Sunday I send an E-Mail to my German E-Mail list of about 8.000 managers and entrepreneurs. I asked them: “What is your biggest challenge today in this crisis?”

Several hundred of them answered with partly very detailed comments.

There were 3 major types of situations they were describing:

  1. The problem working at home and leading out of the home office. This is a struggle, but their jobs are still save.
  2. Right now working around the clock. Very stressful because things inside the company need to be organized. But the company is still doing ok for the next 2-3 months.
  3. Survival mode. These people, mostly entrepreneurs or solopreneurs don’t know how to pay the rent. There business model collapsed. Their sales is zero and they don’t have savings. They don’t know how to proceed with their business in the next weeks.

The more you are in the situation of category 3 the more you need to stay calm and positive in order to be able to see opportunities and in order to find other business models.

For them I have the following tips, I try to use for myself as well.

Get enough sleep!

Sounds obvious, but is so important: “Get enough sleep!” Only then, you are able to think properly.

Take an active role.

Don’t stay passive. Even if you think everything collapses, stay in the driver seat. That means have a clear structure or your day. Get up at the same time.

Don’t watch Netflix all the time. Help others. Work on things which you always wanted to do. Get in touch with others.

Stay focused.

Don’t listen to the news all the time. Habe maybe 1 hour a day to watch the news and scroll your facebook feed, but then stop that. Go to work or do something productive.

Regularly take your time to keep the overview. Where do you stand? Think about the different scenarios and watch out for opportunities. Then go back to work, focusing and and talking with others to get inspired.

And on last impulse her:

“Things are mostly not as bad as they seem!

How you can engage the hearts and minds of your people?


During a crisis like this, there is uncertainty. And for many people uncertainty leads to fear.

Fear that relatives could get infected, fear of losing the job. What is going to happen? What is going to happen to me now, to my family?

In addition, there are all sorts of news: special programs on TV, real news as well as fake news on social media channels and, and, and. Uncertainty and fear are growing.

In fact, nobody knows what’s coming. Will the crisis be over in 2-3 months and everything goes back to normal? Or will it take years and there will be a great depression like in the 30s?

Nobody knows. Everyone is looking for answers.

What do your employees need the most?

So what do your employees need the most now – in this situation?

It’s trust. Trust in you as a manager. Trust that you take on responsibility, that you speak openly and honestly, and trust that you make decisions to the best of your knowledge and belief and that you are there for your employees.

How can you build trust now?

Take care of your employees. If possible, speak to each of your employees.

It is about dealing with fear and uncertainty and stilling your employees fears wherever possible.

Ask your employees how they are doing, what they need right now. If you work at your home office, make a call or skype.

Take the time to respond to fears, whether private or work related. I know it’s not easy, especially when you don’t know how to proceed. When you are afraid and feel insecure yourself.

Now it is important for you not to hide and not to stay in the background. Take on the role of the one who leads, who helps others. If you actively take on this role, it will also help you to better deal with your fears.

Explain to your employees what your view on the situation is and which decisions you are making or will be making and above all: explain why you do these things.

What matters now?

  1. Don’t shy away from telling the truth. Don’t beat around the bush.
  2. Only promise things that you can keep.
  3. Be totally clear about what you know and what you don’t. At the moment everyone is looking for answers.
  4. Explain scenarios: With regard to the future, explain possible scenarios and how you and the company are likely to respond to them. Also clearly state what that would mean for your employees. Don’t downplay the situation.
  5. Take responsibility for your decisions.

What does taking responsibility mean?

You are now making a decision to the best of your knowledge and belief. In retrospect, it can turn out to be wrong decision. That can happen, but it is always better than not making a decision at all.

The important thing is: take responsibility for your decision but also apologize afterwards:

“Yes, I made the wrong decision ..”

Stay optimistic.

Try to be a bastion of calm.

If you act like this, then you are credible. Then you have a great chance that your employees will trust you. If you are totally clear about what is going on when you address the fears, it will help your employees to deal better with fear and uncertainty.

Are all of your employees going to trust you this way?

Probably not. In a time of crisis we can distinguish between 3 types of employees:

1. Promoters

There are employees who have always put complete trust in you. They are your promoters. They think the same way you do and they have the subjective conviction that you are doing or will do exactly the right thing.

2. Skeptics and doubters

The second category, those are skeptics and doubters. They are unsure as to what extend they can trust you. It is particularly important to get these employees on board with you and to convince them that they can trust you during this crisis.

3. Opponents

Theoretically, you can do whatever you want. You will never convince them that you are the right person, that you are doing the right thing and that you can be trusted.

If you work in a small company and have a good working atmosphere, there is a good chance that you will not have a Category 3 employee. This is unlikely in larger organizations.

You will have to deal with all three categories, but focus on the Skeptics and Doubters.

If you want to be a leader…

If you’re a leader, don’t hide, but take responsibility. Help your employees and be the one they can trust. In times of crisis the true character of a person is revealed – or, put it that way, a crisis builds the character.

 

The inspiring quotes

“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, then it’s not the end.”

Fernando Sabino

LME024 – How to deal with email overload – Productivity hacks for managers and leaders

email overload

Email overload!
Image: 3dfoto/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

Do you suffer under email overload?

Are you a business leader and process more than 100 emails on daily basis? Then you are making a mistake!

Your email habits reveal whether you are true leader or simply an overburdened micromanager. It is under your direct control. You have to focus on the important things at work.

To lead is to determine the direction, to maintain control and to inspire employees. You can only achieve this if you focus on the important issues and rigorously delegate tasks.

This also means that you should not be informed about everything at any time of day. You should also not be controlling all transactions in your company and this means you should be very picky with spending time on your emails.

Listen to the podcast version

My experience with emails

To be honest: I did and even today I‘m still not really an expert with working on my E-Mails.

But over the years as a manager and as an entrepreneur I have learned some tricks and E-Mail habits, which helped me a lot to get better with emails.

Today, I still receive a lot of emails, but I don’t spend such a big amount of time on them any longer. Today, with emails I am more productive than ever. Also there is always room for improvement…

Why do so many managers suffer from email overload?

The question is: Why do so many managers constantly read their emails? I think these managers are afraid they might miss something.

Or they may feel the need to demonstrate that they are constantly reachable. What a bunch of nonsense and what a waste of time!

I am actually aware of general managers who expect their employees to respond to an email after no more than 20 minutes. These are the same general managers who process emails during meetings on their laptop or their smart phones.

What is the point of this? If brain research has taught us anything in recent years it is that multi-tasking is neither effective nor efficient.

I can either process my emails, or I can participate in a meeting! If the meeting is not important, why the hell is the leading manager present at the meeting? If the meeting is useless, why not cancel it?

When should you read your emails?

Simple rule:
Only read your emails at fixed times, once or twice a day, for example at noon and at 4:00 p.m.

Otherwise, your email software should be shut down. – And turn off the email notification sound on your mobile phone!

I assure you: Urgent and important issues will not be sent by email. If someone has an urgent matter for you that is also important, they will always contact you in person, or they will call you or your administrative staff.

Believe me: You will not be notified by email if your house is on fire.

How can you process your e-mails efficiently?

I find David Allen’s “Getting it done”, or GTD method for processing emails very helpful. The idea is to keep your incoming mail folder as empty as possible. It is often refered to as “Get an empty inbox!” or “Inbox zero”. The underlying principle behind this:

Take the following steps when processing your emails:

1. “Doing”
Read the email. If the email you have just read requires you to perform an action, and this action will require less than 2 minutes, then take care of it right away!

2. “Delegate”
If an action is required, but you are not necessarily the one to handle the matter, then delegate the task.

3. “Delete or file”
If processing the email will require more time, then place it in your To-Do folder. If no action is needed, but you want to keep the email, then save it to another folder. Otherwise delete the email immediately.

This approach has the following advantages:

  • You only need to process our emails once or twice a day.
  • Each email is only opened once.
  • You inbox is orderly and largely empty.

How can you receive fewer emails to escape email overload?

According to Prof. Jacob Palme, it takes 4 minutes on average to write an email, but only 30 seconds to read an email.

Therefore, if every email had only a single recipient, people would spend 90% of the time allotted to email with writing and only 10% on reading.

But the reality is completely different. Many emails are not only sent to one, but rather many, and some even to a large number of recipients.

You should therefore change the email culture in your company! Let your employees know:

  • Stop sending “CYA” emails!
    If you have established a leadership culture based on trust in your company, then your employees should not feel the need to constantly send emails with a host of “CC” and “BCC” recipients.
  • Avoid the button: “Reply-to-all”!
    There is rarely a need to “reply-to-all” when responding to the original email.
  • Only reply if really neccessary!
    Emails should only be replied to if it is really necessary. Forwarding should be well considered!
  • Don’t expect a reply on the same day!
    Nobody should expect that an email receives a reply on the same day!

And for your personal use:

  • Cancel all newsletters that you do not read anyway!
  • Do not send emails with an automatic read confirmation!
  • Always keep in mind: The fewer emails you send, the fewer emails you will get.
  • Let your employees know that you only want to receive important information by email.

How do you write an email properly?

If you want to avoid email overload, formulate your emails politely, but be brief, clear and precise. An email should best only contain one topic. The topic should be clearly stated in the subject field. This ensures that the purpose is clear without opening the email.

A well formulated subject entry is:

“Meeting on 1st March at 9 am?”.

However, a less helpful subject entry would be:

“Meeting proposal”.

Direct conversation instead of email

With an email there is always the danger that the recipient may misunderstand your intentions, your ironic comment, or the context. This can result in problems or unnecessary escalations.

Some email exchange can get out of control this way. This leads to frequent back and forth. It would be better instead to seek a face-to-face exchange or to briefly call by telephone, and to resolve the issue.

Emails cannot replace direct conversation! Always ask yourself:

“Would it be easier to solve my problem in a personal conversation?”

If so, simply pick up the phone or meet the person directly. I assure you: This is an important point to avoid email overload.

The inspiring quote

Any email that contains the words ‘important’ or ‘urgent’ never are, and annoy me to the point of not replying out of principle.

Markus Persson